• Health

Style: Yoga’s Growing Reach

3 minute read
Kate Betts

The whole point of Yoga may be to check your ego at the door, but that doesn’t mean you can’t assume Downward Dog with style. As yoga has grown in popularity in the U.S. over the past several years–15 million Americans practiced it in 2003, according to a Harris Interactive poll published by Yoga Journal–so too has the availability of the requisite mats, blocks and stretchy clothing.

Americans spend an estimated $20 billion a year on yoga products–everything from $400 Marc Jacobs–designed mat bags to Juicy Couture yoga pants. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting and Madonna have been photographed toting their mats to Ashtanga classes, and some, like model Christy Turlington, even began marketing their own line of yoga gear.

Yoga-related products, once limited to the provinces of privately owned studios and niche catalogs, are turning up on the shelves of big-time retailers. All kinds of yoga-related accessories are now available at sporting-goods stores and department stores; you can even buy yoga gear at Costco and Wal-Mart. At REI, the specialty outdoor store, sales of yoga mats, blocks and other props were up 98% in 2004 compared with the year before.

Two new players in the market are adding travel bags and ergonomic mats to their roster of products. Tumi, a leading luggage and business-case brand, just introduced a line of yoga bags, seen here, with special features to facilitate traveling with yoga gear. “We wanted to address women’s growing interest in yoga and its role in a healthy lifestyle,” says Alan Krantzler, Tumi’s vice president of product management. The company’s new Signature collection features an antibacterial-coated mat, with moisture-proof pouches for damp towels and clothing, and several outside pockets for water bottles, cell phones and other accessories.

What about a special mat that would help yoginis align themselves into perfect positions? “Because your shoulders are wider than your feet when you stand up straight, we created a shape that reflected that ergonomically,” says Anne Appleby, founder of the California-based company YogaForce. For those who can’t quite align their Warrior I pose, the mat also has a grid–a yoga cheat sheet of sorts–so that you can see how to line up your front foot with your back foot’s middle arch. And there’s a bonus for those who find themselves perpetually late for overcrowded classes: there’s no need to fuss with a bag. A YogaForce mat comes with a Velcro carrying strap that detaches so you can grab a spot fast.

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